MSU comes up short against No. 6 Alabama

Bulldogs unable to complete second-half comeback
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For the second time this season, Mississippi State made Alabama sweat a little. But once again, the Crimson Tide held on as MSU fell 64-59 on Saturday. Here's the breakdown, courtesy of Mississippi State media relations:

Facing a 13-point halftime deficit, the Mississippi State men’s basketball team turned to its top three leading scorers of D.J. Stewart Jr., Iverson Molinar and Tolu Smith, who answered the bell with 28 second-half points, but No. 6 Alabama was able to hold onto a 64-59 decision on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.

The Bulldogs (13-12, 7-9 SEC) had their three-game home winning streak over Alabama (19-6, 14-2 SEC) come to a close. The victory also enabled the Crimson Tide to clinch the SEC regular season title, and the No. 1 seed in next month’s SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Stewart Jr. tallied all 15 of his points during the second 20 minutes to reach double figures for the 21st time in 25 games. The Grace, Mississippi, product also dished out four assists.

Tolu Smith collected his SEC-leading seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds. He was an efficient 6-of-9 from the floor.

Molinar notched 11 points and six rebounds to collect 10-plus points during 19 of his 22 outings on the season. The Bulldogs dropped to 10-1 when Molinar, Tolu Smith and Stewart Jr. each score in double figures in 2020-21.

Abdul Ado and Jalen Johnson registered solid efforts during their Senior Night. Ado secured nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks, whereas Johnson chipped in seven points and three rebounds.

Ado made his 122nd career start to tie the program’s all-time leader Dee Bost (2009-10-11-12). The Nigeria native has amassed 67 career games with multiple rejections with his four blocks in the contest.

The Bulldogs received a combined five points from freshmen Derek Fountain and Deivon Smith off the bench. Fountain chipped in three points and two rebounds, while Smith garnered two points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals.

For the contest, MSU turned in a 24-of-59 shooting effort (40.7 percent), a 1-of-12 clip on its three-point attempts (8.3 percent) and was 10-of-17 at the foul line (58.8 percent).

The Bulldogs dialed up 10 assists and committed 16 turnovers, while the Crimson Tide had nine assists and 14 turnovers.

Alabama earned a 45-40 edge over State on the glass. It marked only the sixth time that the Bulldogs were outrebounded this season. MSU maintained a 36-26 ledger in paint points on the strength of a 24-14 edge during the second half.

The Crimson Tide countered with a 21-of-65 mark from the field (32.3 percent), were 7-for-28 on the three’s (25.0 percent) and 15-of-17 on free throws (88.2 percent).

Alabama had two players in double figures, and received 19 points from Jahvon Quinerly off the bench. Jaden Shackelford added 15 points and six rebounds, while Herbert Jones impacted the contest with 14 rebounds.

The Crimson Tide scored 36 of the game’s 41 bench points. James Rojas tacked on nine points and six rebounds highlighted by a critical triple inside the final minute that stretched Bama’s lead from three points to six points.

FROM THE BENCH WITH COACH HOWLAND

“I thought we did a great job fighting. I don’t think there was a lot, in terms of strategy, about what we did differently [in the second half]. We showed a lot of fight, a lot of heart and I’m proud of that. It’s not often that you lose when you hold a team to 32 percent for the game. The things that hurt us today were our foul shooting, 10-for-17 [at] 58 percent. Then, only 1-from-12 from three. They shot 7-for-28, 25 percent [from the three]. But still, there’s six more 3s. That’s really the difference is the foul shooting and three-point shooting. I thought our guys played incredibly hard and really battled. We had a chance there, 56-53 with a shot by Jalen Johnson that would’ve tied it with about a minute to go, but he unfortunately missed it.”

“They have good length, and they do a lot of switching … Those two seniors [Herbert Jones and John Petty Jr.] are really good players. When you look at it, they got their first win, those two seniors, in this building, unfortunately. They were 3-for-18 from the field, but they did other things to help their team win. The guy that played great for Alabama today that was the key player for them offensively was obviously [Jahvon] Quinerly. We had no answer for him. He had 15 in the first half and 19 for the game. He was the difference in the game in terms of their offense. We just had a hard time with him.”

FROM THE LOCKER ROOM – TOLU SMITH

“It’s been great. I love those guys. What many of you don’t know is that Abdul [Ado] is my roommate. I see him as a big brother. He’s taught me a lot along the way. For the people that don’t know, I was also with Jalen [Johnson] in China. So, it’s just been great having a relationship like that with these older guys. Experience can be taught. So, when I go to them, they always tell me a lot of wisdom and a lot of good things. So, it’s just great to have them.”

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Trailing 54-43 at the 9:47 mark, the Bulldogs ripped off 10 of the next 12 points over the next 5:30 off the clock to pull within one possession.

Iverson Molinar and D.J. Stewart Jr. got State going with five free throws. Then, Iverson Molinar finished with a pair of layups around a Derek Fountain tip-in.

State had three opportunities down 56-53 inside the closing minutes to pull closer but were unable to convert. Jalen Johnson misfired on a pair of three-pointers, while Abdul Ado had to force up a jumper late in the shot clock.

The Crimson Tide closed the contest out courtesy of a James Rojas corner three-pointer with 43 seconds to go to extend the lead back to six points, 59-53. Alabama converted on 5-of-6 at the foul line to tuck away the five-point decision.

Both teams were locked in on the defensive end at the start as the two teams went 4-of-18 apiece from the floor to start.

Alabama crept away on a 13-0 spurt capped by a Juwan Gary dunk to make it 20-9 with 7:11 to go. The Crimson Tide took a 34-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State heads into the final week of the regular season and takes on Texas A&M on Wednesday. Tip time is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT from Reed Arena in Bryan-College Station, televised by SEC Network and available online courtesy of the Watch ESPN app.

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